Craig Ruttle, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Unions lent their muscle to the long-running protest against Wall Street and economic inequality Wednesday, with their members joining thousands of protesters in a lower Manhattan march as smaller demonstrations flourished across the country.
Protesters in suits and T-shirts with union slogans left work early to march with activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park for days. Some marchers brought along their children, hoisting them onto their shoulders as they walked down Broadway.
"We're here to stop corporate greed," said Mike Pellegrino, an NYC Transit bus mechanic from Rye Brook. "They should pay their fair share of taxes. We're just working and looking for decent lives for our families."
Of the camping protesters, he said, "We feel kinship with them. We're both looking for the same things."
People gathered in front of the courthouses that encircle Foley Square, then marched to Zuccotti Park, where they refueled with snacks and hurriedly painted new signs as the strong scent of burning sage wafted through the plaza.
The protesters have varied causes but have spoken largely about unemployment and economic inequality and reserved most of their criticism for Wall Street. "We are the 99 percent," they chanted, contrasting themselves with the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
Susan Henoch, 63, of Manhattan said she was a "child of the '60s" and came out to the park for the first time Wednesday. She held a sign that read, "Enough."
"It's time for the people to speak up," she said. "Nobody's listening to us, nobody's representing us. Politics is dead.
"This is no longer a recognizable democracy. This is a disaster," she said.
Some of the union members traveled from other states to march.
Karen Higgins, a co-president of National Nurses United, came down with a group of colleagues from Boston. She said they had seen patients who skipped important medical tests because they couldn't afford them.
"Tax Wall Street," she said. "Those who make all the money need to start paying their fair share."
The Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp nearby in Zuccotti Park and have become increasingly organized, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper.
Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for the protesters, but some Republican presidential candidates have rebuked them. Herman Cain, called the activists "un-American" Wednesday at a book signing in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"They're basically saying that somehow the government is supposed to take from those that have succeeded and give to those who want to protest," the former pizza-company executive said. "That's not the way America was built."
On Tuesday, CBS reported that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called the protest "class warfare" at an appearance at a Florida retirement community.
Activists have been showing solidarity with movement in many cities: Occupy Providence. Occupy Los Angeles. Occupy Boise.
More than 100 people withstood an afternoon downpour in Idaho's capital to protest, including Judy Taylor, a retired property manager.
"I want change. I'm tired of things being taken away from those that need help," she said.
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